Format: DVD from LaSalle Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.
I knew almost from the opening moments that Countess Dracula was going to be a riff on the Countess Erzsebet Bathory story. If you’re not familiar with that story, Bathory is the woman who was alleged to have tried to preserve her youth by bathing in the blood of virgin girls. That’s what we’re going to get, with the horror movie caveat that the “blood sacrifices” actually work to restore the Countess’s youth. It’s worth noting, incidentally, that there is pretty good evidence that the charges against Countess Erzsebet were created specifically to attack a woman with a great deal of political power, land, and wealth in the 17th Century.
Anyway, this is going to be a fairly straight retelling of the basic story. In 17th Century Hungary, Countess Elizabeth Nadasdy (of the Bathory line, and played by British scream queen legend Ingrid Pitt) makes a startling discover. When the blood of one of her servants comes into contact with her skin. That patch of skin suddenly becomes clear and youthful. This spells death for the girl in question, since she’s going to be the first victim of the Countess’s sudden obsession with virgin blood.
Elizabeth is assisted in her need for blood by her soon-to-be ignored lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), who helps because of his love for her despite the fact that he soon realizes that the blood treatments are temporary and make her uglier when they wear off. She is also helped by her nurse Julie (Patience Collier). All of this is happening while other events are taking place. The first is that the late Count had given his library to the castle historian Fabio (Maurice Denham). His horses and stables have been willed to Imre Toth (Sandor Eles), the son of a military friend. Finally, we learn that the Countess’s daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down) is due home.
What happens will not surprise you. With her new youth and libido restored, Countess Elizabeth has her daughter kidnapped and kept out of the way. She pretends instead to be her daughter and romances the young and virile Lieutenant Toth to be her new lover and eventual husband. While Dobi protests, he helps her out of his great love for her, and Julie helps out of her loyalty and devotion. Meanwhile, the stock of virgin girls in the nearby town begins to dwindle, and soon enough Fabio is starting to notice something is amiss.
Countess Dracula makes a lot of promises in its title and its trailer that it doesn’t really live up to. There’s a good amount of suggestion that this will be a tale filled with titillation and nudity, and while there is some, there’s not much. I’ve never been much of a skin fiend when it comes to movies, horror or otherwise, but for a film that is more or less about a woman rediscovering her youth and the joys of sex, you’d expect there to be a lot more going on here. Aside from a nudie shot or two, though, there’s not that much.
And, really, that was the draw to this. Without that, there’s a lot less reason to watch this. I suppose it’s interesting to see the legend of Erzsebet Bathory played out as if it were a true story and as if her self-styled blood baths actually did something more than just mess up the state of the porcelain. It’s a great idea for a film at the very least; it’s just not done the sort of justice it should be.
It’s further disappointing in terms of the blood content. If we’re not going to get a couple of acres of skin, a title like Countess Dracula should at least make with the blood, and once again, we’re not getting a great deal. I’m not expecting a lot of viscera and entrails here, but the actual blood part of a Dracula-named film shouldn’t be wanting.
For what it is, this is well made, but it’s a lot less than it should have been and could have been. I expected a great deal more from this based on the title, so I’m ultimately pretty disappointed.
Why to watch Countess Dracula: There had to be a movie made out of this myth.
Why not to watch: For something that promises to be bloody, it’s really not.